House Still Locked in Budget Battle, Senate Considers Reforms

Federal Budget and AppropriationsRepublican members of the House Budget Committee continued to discuss ways to move forward its FY17 budget resolution but did not appear closer to gaining enough support to pass one on the House floor. Meanwhile, the Senate is considering ways to reform the budget process. 

As previously reported (see Memo, 4/18), the House is at a stalemate in advancing its proposed budget resolution that was approved by the Budget Committee in March on a party line vote. The budget resolution faces opposition on both sides of the aisle, with no apparent compromise in sight. Democrats want to maintain the topline $1.07 trillion funding level agreed to in last year’s budget deal, while conservative Republicans want cuts to both mandatory and discretionary spending.

The House is in recess this week and returns with only a few days before May 15, when the House Appropriations Committee is permitted to bring bills to the House floor without a budget resolution. House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) stated, “May 15 is the date that we can legally go to the floor without a budget resolution, so that’s probably what’ll happen.”

The Senate continued to examine ways of reforming the budget process, with Senate Budget Committee Chair Mike Enzi (R-WY) declaring during a hearing, “I feel seriously enough about this that I have volunteered to eliminate the Budget Committee if it's irrelevant.” He continued, “We can’t need more steps in our process. We need more effective steps in our process." Congress has passed a budget resolution only seven times in the last 15 fiscal years. Senators on the committee are also considering moving towards biennial budgeting so agencies have more time to plan and increase certainty in the appropriations process.

Last week, the committee released a memo that outlines ways to reform the budget process, including making the congressional budget a binding document and conducting portfolio reviews to examine resource-allocation decisions (both tax preferences and spending) by policy goal.

Senator Enzi wants to produce a bipartisan overhaul bill this month, but it remains to be seen whether the full Senate will consider a bill this year.

Read the Senate Budget Committee memo at: